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Bangalore and its surroundings: more than just being “the Silicon Valley of India”

01 July 2015, 07:13

Bangalore offers a lot to discover, particularly in its surroundings. It is not only a modern skyline of stained-glass skyscrapers and a city with a prestigious IT campus, but is also known as a garden city and the most enviable place to live for pensioners. There are certainly reasons for it.

The world knows Bangalore well. Mention it and most people will think about the IT industry, which turned the city into India’s capital city of technology; and gave the metropolis its nickname of “Silicon Valley of India”. 
 
PATA Travel Mart 2015 from September 6-8 will be hosted in the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. This giant metropolis of 8.5 million inhabitants – making it the fifth largest urban agglomeration in the country – is working hard to establish itself as an attractive tourist destination for travellers, in addition to it being known for its IT business. 
 
Bangalore offers a lot to discover, particularly in its surroundings. It is not only a modern skyline of stained-glass skyscrapers and a city with a prestigious IT campus, but is also known as a garden city and the most enviable place to live for pensioners. There are certainly reasons for it. 
 

Kudremukh

Once in Bangalore, any visitor can only be seduced by the incredible dynamism of the place. Bangalore reflects the new India, just like Shanghai is a true mirror to the new China or Sao Paulo to a contemporary Brazil. Talking about the New India spirit, most official visitors will visit Infosys Campus, the world’s largest corporate university spread over 340 acres. The most iconic building on the campus is a giant glass pyramid, which could act as a twin sister to the Pyramid in the Paris Louvre Museum. In town, a few skyscrapers raise attention for their daring architecture, such as a replica – in small size – of the New York Empire State Building. To plunge in the world of the emerging generation of IT kids and entrepreneurs it is best to visit UB City Shopping Mall, Bangalore’s most prestigious address for shopaholics.  
 
Bangalore is definitely embracing the future, and the fun is identifying where old times are still well alive. This is certainly not an easy task as the “absence of significant cultural or natural heritage is a key challenge for promotion”, according to a white paper published in early 2014 by the Karnataka Tourism Vision Group. But it is worth exploring Bangalore in depth. 
 
Looking for Bangalore colonial history
 
The city still has its fair share of colonial style buildings and grand imposing structures.  Such as Bangalore Palace, a reminiscence of Windsor Castle with its Tudor-syle towers and turrets. In Cubbon Park, Seshadri lyer Memorial Library Hall is a remarkable European style building and faces another icon of colonial architecture, the Attara Kacheri, an imposing vivid orange neo-gothic structure, today Karnataka High Court. 
 

Vidhana Soudha 

Among other colonial grand structures are half a dozen churches – including the Holy Trinity Church, the largest military church in South India; the Mayo Hall, an estate built in Italian renaissance style. The National Gallery of Modern Art- previously a palatial residence for the Sultan of Mysore - shows a large collection of painters ranging from the Pre-Independence school of fine arts to contemporary movements. 
 
Let’s not forget Bangalore’s two most iconic monuments, one of which is the Vidhan Soudha, the head of Karnataka State. It is the country’s largest administrative structure, built after the independence. In a move of affirming India’s newly gained independence, architects chose deliberately a majestic neo-Dravidian style reinterpreting traditional Indian architecture. Unfortunately, like the High Court, the building can only be seen from a distance as it is not open to the public.
 

Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace 

The other – and one of the most visited by foreign tourists - is Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. Of Islamic architecture, the palace is an amazing construction made from teak wood inspired by Persian constructions with its vaulted ceilings and Moorish arches. A local tour company, “Bangalore Walks”, organizes tours with some architecture for Bangalore lovers. Each weekend, visitors can then either stroll along the Green Heritage Walk, the Military Heritage Walk or the Victorian Bangalore Walk.  Tours change on a regular basis but information can be easily found on the Internet. 
 
Bangalore got his nickname of a garden city in the 1920s when city officers started to develop public parks all across the metropolitan area. Among them is Cubbon park, in the city centre, a sprawling 120 hectares green space in the heart of historical Bangalore. It contains some 6,000 trees and plants and was opened back in 1870. Inside the park, there is the ubiquitous statue of Queen Victoria. 
 
The Lalbagh Garden is Bangalore Botanical Park opened since 1856. Originally set on order of Mysore rulers, the garden was systematically extended during the British time and comprises now over 1,000 species of plants and trees on 97 hectares. Highlight is a glasshouse modeled after London Crystal palace. Lalbagh Garden is located 4 km south of the city centre.
 
Mysore, a city of munificent palaces
 
Although Bangalore offers plenty to visit and discover for a couple of days, the city is an ideal hub to explore the rest of Karnataka. An easy day trip takes travellers to Mysore. Located 140 km southwest of Bangalore, Mysore is Karnataka’s historical capital.
 

Mysore Palace 

Being the residence of the Wodeyar Dynasty, Mysore was conferred the nickname of “City of Palaces” with seven castles to be seen around town.  Among them is the Amba Vilas Palace, created in 1912 in Indo-Saracenic style. It is a spectacular structure with a sort of “gingerbread” architecture with carving and sculptures. With weekly lighting, it is now the most visited palace in India with over six million visitors a year, only beaten by the Taj Mahal in attendance numbers! A real must-do for travellers… 
 
Another beautiful palace is the Laitha Mahal, inspired by London St Paul Cathedral. Worth a visit, the structure is now an exquisite luxury hotel bringing back memories of British India. 
 
Karnataka world heritage
 
When in Karnataka, it is impossible to miss Hampi, a UNESCO world heritage site. Hampi is home to the last great Hindu empire in South India, with construction dating back to the 10th century. The magnificence of the place made the city’s famous. Hampi was covered by Dravidian temples and palaces between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned. However, it still retains its serene beauty today with imposing ruins but also well-preserved temples to be seen such as Vitthala Temple and its exquisite carvings or Ramachandra temple shaped like a mountain. 
 

Hampi 

Further north to Hampi, Pattadakal is another complex of ancient temples, also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The spectacular Virupaksha temple dedicated to goddess Shiva will certainly evocate memories Angkor Wat for some travellers. 
 
Abundant nature
 
Karnataka is not only about culture. Nature is abundant and often breathtaking. About 22.6% of Karnataka’s geographical area is constituted of forests with the State listing 5 National Parks and 22 Wildlife Sanctuaries. 
 

Jog Falls 

Breathtaking landscapes can be seen along the 320 km coastline with its pristine beaches surrounded by thick jungles where tigers can still be observed. It is also impossible to be disappointed with Jog Falls. They are one of the most spectacular waterfalls to be seen in Asia. At 291 meters over ground, these dramatic plunging waterfalls are the fifth highest on the Asian continent. They are listed among the Top 50 waterfalls in the world. The majestic mountains of the Western Ghats (a UNESCO natural heritage site) are a paradise for trekkers but also for the ones looking at adventure tourism. Rafting, rock climbing or aero sports take place in spectacular settings. 
 
Certainly more relaxing are activities such as golf and spa. Bangalore is prosperous and golf is just one sign of its newly won prosperity. The Karnataka Golf Association manages the 50-hectare 18-hole Bangalore club, one of India’s finest golf courses. Mysore is an established destination today for yoga courses with many celebrities joining its meditation centres, while Mangalore on the coast is well established as a centre for holistic healing, ayurveda and spa. 
 
Bangalore and Karnataka for tourism professionals
 
Data
• International airport with connections to 40 cities in India and close to 20 international destinations including flights to Europe. 
• Karnataka is among India’s Top 5 states for domestic tourism and the 9th largest destination for international visitors. In 2013, the State received 98 million domestic travellers and 0.64 million foreign travellers. Bangalore International Airport accounted for 6.5% of all international arrivals into the country after Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and ahead of Kolkata. 
 
Key assets
• Well preserved landscapes with the Western Ghats range of mountains listed as a UNESCO natural heritage site
• Ancients cities with temples complexes among the most spectacular in India.
• Historical city of Mysore
• Emerging hub for fashion, music and arts in Bangalore.
• Bangalore as a Science, IT and technology centre with emerging potential for MICE.
 
Key challenges
• Absence of an iconic monument in Bangalore which underlines the city’s lack of image as a tourist destination. 
• Lack of a concentrated area for tourist activities 
• Inadequate information on places to see and things to do 
• Low availability of ‘local’ experiences for tourists 
 
(Key challenges taken from the White Paper issued by the Karnataka Tourism Vision Group, 2014)

 

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